(October 10, 2013)--In a letter released today, the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict—including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and six other Nobel laureates—called on members of the African Union (AU) to back the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a critical tool for combating rape and other forms of gender violence. African leaders are gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 11 and 12 for an extraordinary summit of the AU. It is expected that member states will consider a proposal for a united pullout from the ICC and the treaty that created it, the Rome Statute.
“Ending gender violence in conflict must be a top priority for all AU member states,” said Leymah Gbowee, Nobel peace laureate and Co-Chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. “A decision to withdraw from the ICC will be very bad news for survivors who seek justice, and very good news for rapists who expect to get away with their crimes.”
The news that some African ICC states may be considering withdrawal from the Rome Statute has alarmed activists in Africa and around the world who work to end sexual violence in conflict.
“This could be a step back in the struggle against impunity for crimes against humanity, especially rape during war,” said Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and an Advisory Committee member of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. “Without real justice, there will be no lasting peace for Africa or the rest of the world.”
In their letter, Campaign members note the critical role the ICC plays in bringing justice for rape survivors: “As a court of last-resort, the ICC often represents the only opportunity rape survivors have to access justice... The ICC trials serve as powerful symbols that even those at the highest level of power will not get away with using rape as a weapon of war.”
Campaign member Sonke Gender Justice from South Africa is calling on AU Chair/South African senior politician Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to use her position in support the ICC.
"South Africa has long been a staunch supporter of the ICC,” said Sonke Director Dean Peacock. “We call on our government to use its influence at the AU to ensure that human rights are strengthened".
Rachel Vincent, Director of Media & Communications, Nobel Women's Initiative/ for
The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict
Phone +1 613-569-8400 ext.113 or firstname.lastname@example.org
October 10, 2013
Letter to African leaders
As a global movement of Nobel Laureates and civil society organizations working to end sexual violence in conflict, we at the International Campaign to End Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict urge your government to affirm its commitment to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the court’s treaty, the Rome Statute, during the African Union (AU) summit on the ICC on October 11-12, 2013.
As long as there has been war, sexual violence has been used as a weapon to harm women, children and entire communities. Survivors and their communities face severe and long-lasting consequences, including medical problems, psychological trauma, discrimination, isolation, and poverty.
Bold political leadership is needed to prevent rape in conflict, protect civilians and rape survivors, and prosecute those responsible for these crimes. All too often, state judicial systems are unable or unwilling to prosecute the most serious perpetrators of mass atrocities, including rape. This failure to hold offenders accountable for rape in war sends a devastating message to survivors that their experiences of violence don’t matter, and to perpetrators that they can continue to rape without consequence.
The ICC represents the last resort for rape survivors to access justice. It plays an important role in holding perpetrators of rape during war to account, offering a safe venue for survivors to confront their attackers and share the truth about their experiences. The ICC trials send a clear message that even those at the highest level of power will not get away with using rape as a weapon of war.
Rape occurs in conflicts all over the world, and we work tirelessly to hold all perpetrators accountable--regardless of where they live. We share your frustration that the international justice system has not been applied evenly around the world, and that some governments have successfully shielded their leaders from prosecution of war crimes involving sexual violence. But for survivors seeking justice, the way forward is to expand the work of the ICC.
Withdrawing from the ICC represents a serious setback in the quest for justice for rape survivors. We urge you to send a clear signal in support of survivors of sexual violence by upholding your commitment to the ICC.
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace laureate (2011), Liberia
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace laureate (1984), South Africa
Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director of the Panzi Hospital, République démocratique du Congo (RDC)
Dean Peacock, Director-General, Sonke Gender Justice, South Africa
On behalf of The Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict
The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is led by the Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and an Advisory Committee comprised of 25 organizations working at the international, regional and community levels to stop rape.
The Campaign, comprised of more than 600 organizations around the world, demands urgent and bold political leadership to prevent rape in conflict, to protect civilians and rape survivors, and calls for justice for all—including effective prosecution of those responsible. www.stoprapeinconflict.org